Belly fat is a common problem particularly in men and post-menopausal women. The most dangerous kind of belly fat is the type that lies deep within the abdominal cavity and wraps around internal organs like the liver. This type of fat is more likely to lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes than the jiggly stuff you can pinch between your fingers. For health reasons, it’s important to decrease deep belly fat since it has the potential to shorten your lifespan. One way to do it is through exercise, but what type is best? Recently, a new study looked at this issue.
Aerobic versus Resistance Training: Which is Best to Reduce Visceral Fat?
In a study carried out at Duke University Medical Center and published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers assigned almost 200 overweight adults to one of three exercise groups. One group jogged 12 miles weekly at a moderate intensity. Another did resistance training three times a week. A third group did a combination of aerobic and resistance training.
The results? Aerobic exercise was more effective in this study for reducing visceral fat than resistance training. Aerobic exercise had the added benefit of increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering triglyceride levels. A combination of aerobic and resistance training had similar benefits to aerobic exercise alone. Surprisingly, resistance training didn’t reduce visceral body fat or significantly affect insulin sensitivity.
Is Resistance Training Ineffective for Decreasing Visceral Fat?
Keep in mind that this is only one study. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care came to a different conclusion. It showed that twice a week resistance training improved insulin sensitivity and reduced belly fat in men with type 2 diabetes. This occurred despite the fact the men made no dietary changes and did no aerobic exercise. Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology also showed that resistance training boosted insulin sensitivity.
How a person responds to resistance training depends on a variety of factors such as how hard they lift, their diet, how often they train, their age and their individual genetics. Not everyone will respond in the same way or have the same hormonal response.
Still, based on this study, it’s a good idea to combine resistance exercise with aerobic training for melting away belly fat. Aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity or greater burns significant calories. This seems to be important for reducing visceral belly fat. Overall, high-intensity exercise of any type seems to be best for changing body composition and reducing body fat.
The Bottom Line?
If you want to reduce visceral body fat, add moderate-intensity cardio or high-intensity interval training to your routine, but don’t neglect resistance training. Heavy resistance training triggers hormonal changes that boost your metabolism and help you burn more fat for hours to days after a workout. Both are important for a balanced workout.
Medical News Today. “Want to Lose Belly Fat? Aerobic Exercise Beats Weights”
Diabetes Care. “Twice-Weekly Progressive Resistance Training Decreases Abdominal Fat and Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Older Men with Type 2 Diabetes”
J Appl Physiol. 1994; 77:614-620.